In pursuit of airfreight’s Holy Grail

In pursuit of airfreight’s Holy Grail

When it comes to technology, the sector is awash with buzzwords. Blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and disruptors. All are meant to somehow aid and abet the logistics field but to date, what have they done? And what does “digitization” mean? For Zvi Schreiber, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of online capacity marketplace Freightos, it is not digitization but digitalization that matters.

“At the moment, pricing is going through several manual processing steps,” says Schreiber. “You not only have manual processes but maybe these manual processes need to be performed by the parties in the chain – this can include forwarders, co-loaders, carriers. The holy grail for logistics is digitalisation, which is to get everything flowing digitally through a single platform.”

Schreiber is not alone in this mindset. His opposite number at iContainers Ivan Tintore says he wants “digitization” to do for the freight sector what it did to passenger transport back in the late 1990s.

“What we want to see is all parties linked into one digital system,” says Tintore. “This, obviously, is the hard part.”

Of course, it is obvious that the digital platforms – the likes of Freightos, iContainers, and Flexport – want to get people linked into digital systems. This is the market in which they operate. But for others, say the forwarders, the perspective is different.

“Being at the coal face, we have a different set of requests,” says Neel Ratti, General Manager of freight forwarder Tuscor Lloyds. “What we – and forwarders in general need – is much more of a patchwork solution, rather than a one-size-fits-all fix.”

Ratti sees what the industry needs as more of an “automation” than a digitization. He believes, technology is at its best when it is taking on the mundane tasks that previously required both staff and time to complete.

“Things like chasing up bills,” he continues. “If technology was to take over in this sense, it would free people up to actively engage with our customers and provide the sort of service that a machine can’t.

“This isn’t to say there’s no demand for online forwarding platforms. A shipper can use them to punch in details and get a quick response and a price. But what about more bespoke options? The example I use is a travel agent – there are some things you can’t get when booking a holiday online. Sometimes, you need someone on the phone, so for me, the idea that these platforms are disrupting the market is inaccurate, they are augmenting it.”

While Ratti may take a more diplomatic route in discussing his relationship with tech start-ups, Chief Executive of SWG Steve Walker pulls no punches. For Walker the problem lies in the attitudes espoused by the “so-called disruptors”….

To read the full story in TIACA Times Summer Issue 2018, click here.

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